News - 15 November 2015

en - Ordinary Synod on the Family

“The 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World” has been a 3-week ‘walking together’ among our Church leaders as they delved into the challenges faced by families in different cultures the world over. As millions of people prayerfully unite with Paris today and extend sentiments of solidarity and support in the face of the recent hideous acts of terrorism, unprecedented since WW-II, we remember how the human condition has evolved and reached incredible diversity in beliefs, culture, politics, business, human relationships, manner of pursuing development, and styles in resolving conflicts. Such human situation is the scenario today where the Church, accompanied by the leadership of Pope Francis, is challenged to walk with the people, listen to their real cries, and define a pastoral approach that will be responsive to the present needs of the world, and faithful to the new understanding of the prompting of the Holy Spirit. What the Church attempted courageously to embark on over two consecutive years, given the extraordinary synod last year which in a way precipitated more consultation to prepare for the ordinary synod and greater reach for the Church leaders who sought out to hear more from their flocks, proved to be the work of the Holy Spirit. It was an ambitious venture to encourage, as Pope Francis did, honest, free and open discussions among the 270 members representing 120 countries and all continents, and to gather diverse sentiments, convictions, and ways of living the faith amidst one’s own flock, whileat the same time hope to arrive at some pastoral approaches which would be acceptable to at least 2/3of the official synod body. The whole process was obviously more divisive and tending towards stronger polarization. Only the Holy Spirit could have accompanied the 2-year on-going process, respected the integrity of the diverse human experiences brought in from all continents, and find the most intricate way towards a consensus of at least 2/3 votes for all the 94 paragraphs of the final document. As observed by our official couple delegate from the Philippines who comes from the Assumption family of lay educators, God’s tender and compassionate presence was vividly personified in Pope Francis and persistently refused to be disregarded during the entire synod. The Church in the end, surprised by her own process, has truly emerged vibrant to continue living her synodality, confident to go out into the periphery, and inspired by the whole experience, to accompany the people of God into the future. A new era in the Church has indeed begun. The world is amazed at what the Holy Spirit has accomplished. And many people from different faith commitments join the Catholics in celebrating their gratitude and support for Pope Francis. But the fulfilment of the Kingdom in our midst still lies ahead. It therefore behooves us to actively own the journey and join hands in making this ecclesial experience of open dialogue, free debate, and honest discernment, a new way of life for the Church in all parts of the world.Entering soon into the Year of Mercy, we count on God’s compassionate love to show us the way. Josefina Margat, r.a.